PM must seize the mo­ment – and at­tack

The Mail on Sunday - - Comment -

AP­PAR­ENT weak­ness can of­ten be a source of strength. The most fa­mous ex­am­ple of this is the de­fi­ant mes­sage sent by the French Mar­shal Fer­di­nand Foch to his su­pe­ri­ors in 1914: ‘My cen­tre is giv­ing way, my right is re­treat­ing. Sit­u­a­tion ex­cel­lent, I am at­tack­ing.’ He did so, and saved his coun­try from de­feat.

The Prime Min­is­ter should adopt this as her own pri­vate watch­word. Her snip­ing, whis­per­ing en­e­mies have thrown ev­ery­thing they have at her. They stood in­wardly gloat­ing at her mis­for­tunes last week, vainly hop­ing that she would quit in de­spair and save them from stab­bing her in the back. To her last­ing credit, she did not oblige.

While will­ing to wound, her foes fear to strike. No won­der. Not one of her crit­ics has shown any sign of be­ing ca­pa­ble of hold­ing the high­est of­fice in the land.

On the con­trary, their petty ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity at such a time shows only how un­fit they are.

Mrs May must take ad­van­tage of this. Now is the time to use the con­sid­er­able au­thor­ity she ac­tu­ally has, thanks to the fee­ble­ness of her at­tack­ers and the over­ar­ch­ing need to de­feat Cor­bynism.

Now is the time to get rid of un­re­li­able and worn-out Min­is­ters, to bring on new and more loyal tal­ent, and to move those who are more dan­ger­ous out­side the tent than in­side it.

Writ­ing on th­ese pages, the for­mer Tory pre­mier Sir John Ma­jor – him­self the sub­ject of end­less dis­loyal at­tacks and snip­ing till he won a Gen­eral Elec­tion – of­fers Mrs May some ex­cel­lent am­mu­ni­tion, while sav­aging her crit­ics.

The great­est con­cern of to­day’s Tory Party is the dan­ger of a Cor­byn gov­ern­ment, which Sir John de­scribes as ‘the re­turn of a night­mare’ and ‘pure poi­son to any hope of pros­per­ity’. Pol­i­tics, he tells the trou­ble­mak­ers, is not a game and their ac­tiv­i­ties must stop, for the sake of the coun­try.

He warns against any wild swerve back to Thatcherite dog­ma­tism, say­ing the Tories must not let ide­ol­ogy get in the way of com­mon sense, or al­low their farRight to dom­i­nate the stage and so re­pel mod­er­ate vot­ers.

In a sharp break with the years of aus­ter­ity, he rec­om­mends a gi­ant ef­fort to solve the hous­ing cri­sis and stim­u­late the whole econ­omy, bor­row­ing money while it is cheap to do so, un­shack­ling the pri­vate sec­tor and sweep­ing aside much of our re­stric­tive plan­ning law.

At the same time, Sir John rec­om­mends a pow­er­ful, co-or­di­nated and sus­tained ef­fort to teach real skills to the young, cast­ing aside at last the dam­ag­ing class dis­tinc­tions be­tween aca­demic and prac­ti­cal qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Rightly, he says that only by giv­ing hope to the whole na­tion, ev­ery so­cial class and ev­ery re­gion and coun­try of the UK, can the Tories re-en­gage with the elec­torate and de­feat the neo-Marx­ist Labour threat. And he rightly warns: ‘This can never be achieved while we re­strict our­selves only to the drum­beat of Brexit! Brexit! Brexit!’

Th­ese are words of hard-won wis­dom, from a man who has faced seem­ingly in­tractable en­e­mies in­side and out­side his party, and over­come them. Of course such a plan is risky. But in­ac­tion and dither­ing are far more dan­ger­ous.

Mrs May should seize her mo­ment.

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